Masks and Face Coverings

Page updated: July 30, 2021, 10:00 a.m.

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Washington State’s mask mandate is still in effect.

  • Unvaccinated individuals are still required to wear masks in any shared spaces, public or private. This includes condo and apartment buildings, fraternities/sororities, hotels/motels, nursing homes, assisted living, and adult family homes. Masking outdoors is recommended in crowded situations where physical distancing is difficult or not possible. 
  • Fully vaccinated individuals are also still required to wear masks in indoor public transportation conveyances and hubs. Fully vaccinated individuals are required to wear masks in a healthcare setting, correctional facility, homeless shelter, school, or business that requires them to. The Whatcom County Health Department recommends that fully vaccinated individuals wear masks in public indoor spaces and crowded outdoor spaces where you can't be sure of others' vaccination status. Masks provide an additional layer of protection even after vaccination. No vaccine is 100% effective, and masks help reduce the risk of possible breakthrough infection. 

For more information, see this overview of COVID-19 statewide face covering requirements and the Masks and Face Covering Guidance from Washington State Department of Health.

Why Wear a Face Covering

Face coverings are an additional tool we can use to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community. They protect others by blocking droplets that contain the virus from spreading to others when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes, or speaks. After vaccination, masks are the best tool we have to reduce the spread of COVID-19. They provide an additional layer of protection even if you're already vaccinated. 

Where You Need To Wear A Face Covering

Washington State residents and visitors who are not fully vaccinated must wear face coverings in most public indoor settings. 

Public spaces include:

  • Stores that sell food and beverages, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, and farmer’s markets.
  • Retail stores, such as auto supply stores, hardware stores, and garden stores. 
  • Restaurant take-out businesses. Employees who prepare, carry out, and deliver food must wear masks if they’re not fully vaccinated.
  • Buses, rideshares, and other forms of public transportation.
  • Workplaces for manufacturing, agriculture, construction, and other trades.

Everyone, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, still needs to wear masks or face coverings in the following settings:

  • Businesses that require masks or face coverings
  • Correctional facilities
  • Healthcare settings
  • Homeless shelters
  • Schools or child care centers
  • Public transportation (unless outdoors)

This order will remain in effect until it is repealed or replaced by the Secretary of Health, or until it is ended by the Governor.

In accordance with CDC and DOH guidance, the Whatcom County Health Department encourages fully vaccinated people to wear masks, especially in pulblicindoor spaces where you can't be sure of everyone else's vaccination status. Masks provide an extra layer of protection from COVID-19.

Who Should Wear a Face Covering

Everyone should wear face coverings in public indoor settings unless they are in one of the following groups:

  • Children younger than five years old:
    • Children who are younger than two years old should never wear face coverings due to risk of suffocation. 
    • It is strongly recommended that children who are two to four years old use face coverings in public settings with the assistance and close supervision of an adult.
  • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering. This includes, but is not limited to, persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing, who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.

What Kind of Face Coverings to Use

Face coverings should fit snugly over your nose and mouth and consist of multiple layers. If your mask or face covering only consists of one layer, consider doubling up. 

Information about choosing the right mask, and wearing it correctly, is available from the CDC.

Are clear face shields a good alternative to cloth face covering?

The CDC and L&I don’t recommend face shields as a substitute for a cloth face covering (mask). But face shields can be used by children in child care and K-12 schools.

How to Properly Wear Face Coverings 

  • Your mask should cover your nose and mouth at all times.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before you put on a face covering and after removing it.
  • Change your face covering when it gets moist.
  • Wash your face covering after each use.

Learn more about how to appropriately wear a face covering here: 

Additional guidance on using face coverings is available from the CDC.

Where to Get a Face Covering If You Can’t Buy One

If you are an individual in need of a mask, please contact your local social service provider. 

Information for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deafblind Community Members

This directive affects community members who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind in different ways than others. We’ve compiled resources to explain how the directive applies to you if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind .

Guidance For Businesses & Employers

As of June 14, 2021, fully vaccinated workers don’t need to wear masks or socially distance at work unless their employer or local public health agency requires it. Employees are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the final dose in their vaccine series.

In order for fully vaccinated employees to work mask-free, employers must first confirm the employee’s vaccination status by:

  • Asking for proof of vaccination status, such as the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccination record card given at the time of vaccination, or a vaccination record from their medical provider.
  • Asking the employee to sign a statement attesting to their fully vaccinated status. 

Employers must be able to provide documentation if requested by L&I proving they’ve confirmed their employee’s vaccination status. Check L&I’s Requirements and Guidance for Preventing COVID-19 for examples of acceptable documentation. 

All employees who are not fully vaccinated are still required to wear a cloth facial covering unless they work completely alone or the job has no in-person interaction.

Employers must provide cloth facial coverings to employees, unless a higher level of protection is required by their job duties. Employees may choose to wear their own facial covering at work, but it must meet the minimum level of protection based on their exposure risk. 

The minimum level of protection required for workers, based on exposure risk, can be found in this chart from L&I. Additional guidance from L&I about when employees should use cloth face coverings and when they are required to use respirators can be found in this publication.

Businesses are permitted to allow fully vaccinated customers to refrain from wearing masks on business premises at the business’s discretion. Businesses may, if they wish, continue to require all customers to wear masks on business premises regardless of vaccination status. Unvaccinated people are still required to wear masks in public indoor spaces. Businesses have the right to request proof of vaccination before allowing customers to go mask-free at their business.

Customers are not required to provide documentation or a reason if they are unable to wear a face covering. Businesses are encouraged to offer some kind of accommodation for these customers such as curbside pickup, delivery, or a scheduled appointment when physical distancing can be ensured. More information can be found in the overview of face covering requirements.

Enforcement

People are urged to comply with this State Health Order because it is an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Members of the public are required by law to comply with this order. Noncompliance with this order may be subject to criminal penalties pursuant to RCW 43.70.130(7), RCW 70.05.120(4), and WAC 246-100-070(3).

Please do not call 911 to report non-compliance with this order. Only call 911 in an emergency.